TCC Legislative Update
As the time has now passed for the Governor to sign or veto legislation passed by the Texas Legislature, we can now report to you the principal veterans legislation that has become law. The list is impressive and demonstrates for many of us who have been unaware until this year of the need for effort on the State legislative front, just how significant State legislation can be for veterans and their families and survivors. Legislation which became law includes, among others, the following:
- Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (SB90),which by standardizing academic credits among states for military children, will greatly ease the transition between school systems for children of military families transferred into and out of Texas.
- Hazelwood Act Amendments (SB93)will permit the transfer of Hazelwood Act educational tuition benefits (accruing to veterans who entered military service while residents of Texas to serve during time of war or national emergency) from veterans to their spouses or children.
- Residential Property Tax Reduction for Disabled Veterans (SB469)grants an exemption from residential property taxes to 100% disabled veterans and a proportionately adjusted exemption for lesser disabled veterans, effective 1/1/09.
- Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets to Benefit the Veterans’ Assistance Fund Administered by the Texas Veterans Commission (SB1655) are expected to produce approximately $5,000,000 in 2009 and $8 to $9,000,000 in subsequent years.
- Creation of a Mental Health Intervention Program (SB1325)will assist veterans with mental health issues, including post traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury, and by extension, their families.
- Military Absentee Voting By Electronic Means (HB55) will permit, among other things, electronic transmission of a federal postcard application for voting, to make it easier for military personnel away from their place of residence to vote.
While the foregoing list is impressive and includes a number of MOAA’s Texas Council of Chapters (TCC) high priority goals, not all desirable veterans legislative proposals became law. In particular, a number of education initiatives intended to make it easier for military personnel stationed in Texas to attend college in Texas will have to await future legislative sessions. Notwithstanding some setbacks, which are to be expected, our thanks are extended to all our who participated in the Texas legislative efforts, whether by emails or by personal visits to our legislators. Your help is indispensable.
Turning now to Congress, the House recently passed its version of the FY 2010 National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), which addresses a number of MOAA goals, including a five-stage phase-out over five years of the remaining prohibitions on concurrent receipt of retired pay and disability compensation. However, only the first phase is funded. If no funding is found when needed for any subsequent phase, the entire phase-out would terminate!
The Senate has started its consideration of the FY2010 NDAA, but the bill currently before the Senate is not as favorable as the House-passed bill . However, a number of amendments have been proposed to address issues that are MOAA goals. We will keep you advised by legislative action alerts when your emails are needed.
Lastly, in an important favorable development, the Higher Education Act has become law. As of 7/1/09 military members, spouses, and their college-aged children are guaranteed in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where they reside or are permanently stationed. Once family members have enrolled in such institutions, they are guaranteed in-state tuition rates so long as they remain continuously enrolled, even though the military member is transferred out of state. This will significantly reduce the hardship to students resulting from military transfers.,